2023 Record: 7-3, 3rd in PLL, lost in Championship Game
2024 Draft Picks: 7th overall, 15th overall, 23rd overall, 31st overall
Offensive Efficiency: 31.2%, 2nd in PLL
Defensive Efficiency: 24.2%, 1st in PLL
Pending Free Agents
Charlie Kitchen (Spent 2023 on PUP)
Jake Withers (Spent 2023 on Holdout)
Heading into the title game, the take was, correctly, that the season was coming down to the two best teams. The Waterdogs were absolutely one of the two best teams in the league this year. They just kept finding ways to win games. But the most notable win came early in the season. Week 3, in Columbus, the Waterdogs found themselves down 6-0 early, 9-5 at half, and 12-5 early in the 3rd quarter. Then Coach Andy Copelan made a season defining personnel move. He stopped using James Reilly on faceoffs, and went with Eli Gobrecht instead. He forced Trevor Baptiste to go backwards to his own end with the ball, then the Atlas to clear and sub effectively. Copelan forced the Atlas to eat up massive chunks of the 32 seconds clock off faceoffs, and as a result, forced poor possessions that were followed by full 52 second clocks for the Waterdogs. Those 52 second possessions were converted into goals, Connor Kelly hit a trio of two pointers, and the Waterdogs continued to punish poor Atlas sub patterns to come back and win 19-18. It was a massive moment because the Waterdogs didn’t dress a faceoff specialist the rest of the season. The Cannons would soon go the same route. The Waterdogs got to leverage their tremendous midfield depth because of the extra roster spot every weekend. Zach Currier could take faceoffs and stay on the field, regardless of outcome. Depth and versatility helped the Waterdogs to a 7-3 record. They crushed the turnover margin. Their regular season losses were to Archers, Cannons, and Redwoods, which are the other three teams that finished top four in the league. Including the Championship, they lost four games by a combined seven goals. They absolutely dismantled the Cannons in the semifinal by playing one of the most complete games not just of the year, but that a PLL team has ever played. Ultimately, they came up just short. Literally. Jake Carraway’s last second two pointer, which would have won the title, was tipped just wide of the net as time expired, and the Waterdogs fell in the championship by a goal.
Some of this comes down to the faceoff rule, as is the case for the Cannons and some other teams in the league. If there league reverts the 32 second clock rule, or alters it in a meaningful way, then faceoff becomes the immediate need. Jake Withers didn’t play this year as he finished firefighter training in Canada and spent the summer playing for Peterborough, staying close to his new job and growing family. In week three, the Waterdogs moved away from using Zac Tucci and James Reilly completely, opting to not dress a specialist and run the prevent. It doesn’t feel likely that Withers returns to the PLL, barring the league placing a team in a home market near him, so the Waterdogs will need to decide to move forward with last year’s drafted specialist, James Reilly, or go in another direction. There isn’t much in the way of needs elsewhere for this team. The offense is versatile and deep, and the depth was on display this year when both Thomas McConvey and Jake Carraway dealt with injuries. They may need to start some future planning, as Kieran McArdle just wrapped up year ten as a pro and has a one year old, and Dillon Ward year 11.
A very short list, and a group of players who all should be expected back. This is a group that won a title and was within a few inches of repeating. The window is still open for these players, they know it, they’ll do their best to stay together. Byrnes is one of the best help defenders in the league, he’ll have interest from plenty of clubs (Atlas should be all over him). Gobrecht is underrated as a defender and is a key part of the Waterdogs' prevent strategy, so if the Dogs will need to keep him in the event the rule stays the same. An interesting free agent option for this team could be Dylan Molloy, who could rotate at attack with the rest of their group and be the guy to take the spot if/when McArdle moves on.
Picking 7th isn’t the end of the world. Last year the Dogs picked eighth and landed McConvey, there will be plenty of talent there for them. Should they go to the defensive end of the field, they’ll likely have their choice of top poles. Jake Piseno is very much the type of defender this team loves. On the offensive end there will still be firepower available, as O’Neill, Shellenberger, and Kav are the likely top three picks, leaving still spectacular players there for the Waterdogs at seven. Weapons like Dyson Williams, TJ Malone, Levi Anderson, Alex Slusher, and Jack Boyden could be available for the Dogs. If faceoff becomes a need, Luke Wierman and Tommy Burke will be players to watch.